NOVEMBER 30, 2010
Not too long ago, I had the displeasure of watching Cold Creek Manor, a thoroughly terrible movie that I had rented under the impression that it was a haunted house film. It wasn’t, and now I discover that in apart from being terrible, it was sort of a ripoff of The Evictors, a less terrible film from 1979 that has essentially the exact same plot of a family moving into an isolated estate only to be boringly terrorized by the previous owners. But it’s at least shorter, and stars the always welcome Jessica Harper, so it’s not as much of an annoyance as the other film.
Still though, what a snoozefest. Due to the independent nature of his projects, Charles B. Pierce has never made an action-packed movie, but tension and atmosphere are pretty much free, no? And what can be scarier than a home invasion? Pierce botches all of this though; the film is basically a drama with an occasional chase scene.
The biggest problem is that hardly anything happens to the character we care about (Harper). Instead, she just hears stories (read: sepia toned flashbacks) about things that happened to previous owners, which is about as riveting as it sounds. I don’t know these people, and you’re basically telling me they are dead right from the start, so who cares? I could see if the house was haunted and it was filling in the mystery of the place, not unlike the opening of The Haunting, but there’s nothing supernatural about the film at all.
Strangely, Pierce seemingly tries to make you THINK there is, at least for a little bit, making it seem like the house drives people to murder, possibly due to the restless spirits of the original owners, who were gunned down in the opening flashback scene. And then we get a present day murder, in which we see an axe but not the person holding it. A ghost, right? Nope, despite the mysterious presentation of this scene, the very next one shows a very human (and identifiable) person driving the truck of the guy who just got killed. So we have an instant red herring, and a total lack of mystery for the rest of the film. Cool.
To be fair, there is a bit of a twist at the end involving Vic Morrow’s slimy real estate agent (yep, real estate horror strikes again!), but it’s completely ludicrous. As he prepares to sell the house to another couple, he pulls out a pair of broken glasses, which tells us that he’s the guy at the beginning of the film who tried to evict the original owners. First of all – huh? Second of all – how bad of a real estate agent are you that you can’t afford to buy a new pair of glasses almost 30 years later?
Also baffling – why does Michael Parks (as Harper’s husband) get billing over Harper when he’s barely in the damn thing? Almost immediately after they move into the house he takes off for some work, and appears a couple of times on the other end of a phone call. Then, when he finally comes home, he gets shot 4 seconds later and later dies (off-screen) in the hospital. Granted, Parks rules, but wouldn’t (actual star) Harper, coming off of Suspiria and Phantom of the Paradise, be a bigger draw, especially since they were selling this as a horror film? Parks was mostly known for TV work at the time.
Speaking of credit-based annoyances, it’s one of those movies where they freeze frame for each credit. So you see a guy like walk up to his car, then it freezes for an associate producer credit. 10 seconds later the credit goes away, the guy will get into the car, and then it’ll freeze again for the DP. And so on. This makes the opening scene take about twice as long as it should, and annoys me right off the bat. Also, it didn’t ANNOY me, per se, but the film looked stretched vertically even though it was presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Everyone looked really thin and tall. Weird.
I hate to speak ill of the recently deceased (Pierce died last year), but did this guy ever make a good movie after Boggy Creek (which I haven’t even seen but I assume it’s good considering it had two sequels and gave him a career)? Boggy Creek II was atrocious, Town That Dreaded Sundown is pretty much the most uneven and schizophrenic movie ever made, and this is a dreadful bore. And those are his highest profile efforts post-Boggy. I mean, he’s not exactly Bill Rebane, but I sure as hell won’t be bothering to watch his other movies any time soon either.
What say you?